Monday, April 20, 2009

Down But Not Out

Charlton Athletic 2 Blackpool 2

My wife was anxious on Saturday evening if I was alright about Charlton being relegated earlier that afternoon, the direct result of conceding an equalising goal deep into injury time? Of course I said, as far as I and most supporters were concerned, we had been relegated about a month previously, and the result on Saturday merely confirmed that fact mathematically.

In fact, as confirmation of the dreaded drop had taken much longer than many people had predicted, with sometime in March being the overly pessimistic, signs were that an improvement in performance and results could lead to an element of optimism for next year.

Saturday saw the same starting eleven bar Deon Burton for Tresor Kandol, but the introduction of both Tamer Tuna and Scott Wagstaff to the subs bench.

The off-field entertainment was provided by Blackpool fans; my friend noted before the game "that just has to be a bloke!?!" as a figure dressed in blonde wig, orange top, white ra-ra skirt, and with pom-poms on his/her wrist pranced around. Sure enough, the exhibition of him (for it was) lifting up his skirt and showing off the lower part of his orange leotard confirmed his masculinity, and soon he was joined by five other similarly clad transexual fans sitting in the front row behind the goal.

On the field, the first half was an entertaining game, bereft of goals. Jonjo Shelvey, never shy to shoot, was off target a couple of times, and Burton showed skill with a neat turn but shot over, but the best chance fell to Lloyd Sam after a goal mouth scramble, and his firm shot was blocked short of the line with the keeper beaten.

It was noticeable that Sam was getting involved much more than has been usual, and he made several darts well into the six yard box when Nicky Bailey was in possession in the hope of getting onto one of his crosses. One problem Charlton have had is lack of bodies in the penalty area when attacking – with Shelvey or Zheng Zhi often involved out wide – so this was good to see. Blackpool also had a couple of headers go close, but at half time, neither keeper had needed to make a save of any sort.

Early in the second half, after good work by ZiZi, a Sam cross was headed over ex-Addick Rachubka and into the net by Burton; one report I read said that there wasn’t much of a cheer – this may have been shock at a Charlton forward scoring but more likely that it was a surprise for fans at the far end of the ground (like myself) to see the ball go in so easily.

About a minute later, another excellent passing move saw ZiZi given time, and he chipped a lovely ball across the area for Shelvey to latch onto and shoot in for number two. Sadly, apart from an audacious Shelvey shot from fifty yards that had Rachubka beaten but the bar too, Charlton created little else, often trying to over-elaborate passing moves, and often conceding possession when well placed. Blackpool saw more of the ball, and with forwards supplemented and changed, started to come into the game more, without really threatening. It was horrible therefore, when a wayward ZiZi pass on the halfway line gifted possession to the Tangerines, and the breakaway ended with Mark Hudson giving away a sure fire penalty. Hudson was always struggling to catch Campbell but with Elliott well placed, the foul really shouldn’t have been conceded. At 2-1, with the penalty converted, Charlton tried to up their game once more, and did so briefly, but the desperate away team wanted it more, apparently. Tuna was called upon, but whereas last weekend Parkinson switched to 4-4-2 and offered his defence relief as the game became more open, this time Burton was withdrawn (possibly with cramp?) and Tuna ploughed a lone furrough. He tried his best, but often the ball was given away before it came anywhere near him.

As time ticked down, the pressure told, and sub Lee Hughes, once a guest of Her Majesty’s Prison Service, scored and showed he still knew how to run away after the event. This time though, it wasn’t 36-hours until he was caught, as the pom-pom crew had leapt the barriers and submerged him along with team-mates. Oh, and nobody died this time...

For Charlton, that goal well into the three minutes of added time meant certain relegation, whatever any of the other teams above them did. I was glad, personally, that the consequences came as a direct result of the Addicks performance, and not though other teams snatching points to put us down.

Thoughts now turn to the final three games, and with Tuna, Wagstaff, and Chris Solly all in the squad recently, I expect them all to see game time before the season curtain comes down in early May.

We knew many weeks back that we would go down to tier three, now with that fact confirmed, we must start the long haul to bring us back up again.

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